Professional Observatories

Independent Observatories

Because of our unique environment, Arizona is home to dozens of observatories and research facilities providing a wealth of valuable data.

Visit an observatory on your next journey.

Sites with visitor programs

About AzAC

Arizona Astronomy Consortium (AzAC) is an advocacy organization of the leading astronomical observatories in the state of Arizona.

Observatory directors and staff created AzAC to foster preservation of the world class dark skies that have placed Arizona in the forefront of astronomy research. Recognizing that development is important for Arizona’s economic progress, AzAC strives to promote sound policies that accommodate future growth while ensuring that dark skies are preserved, enabling Arizona to maintain its vital astronomy industry.

AzAC activities include: 

1) Monitor Arizona state legislature activities regarding outdoor lighting that impacts dark skies; submit information briefs regarding proposed legislation that adversely affects the astronomy industry.

2) Assist local jurisdictions in revising Outdoor Lighting Codes to improve dark sky preservation and to address new technologies in outdoor lighting methods. AzAC seeks to work constructively with municipalities across the state.

3) Coordinate with other organizations for protection of dark skies and promotion of educational activities, such as Optics Valley and the Arizona Technology Council, International Astronomical Union, American Astronomical Society and International Dark-Sky Association.

Help preserve Arizona’s preeminent research industry, high-tech jobs, and extraordinary natural environment by protecting dark skies.

For more information about AzAC, or to arrange a presentation about Arizona’s dark skies, please contact us via email at

AzAC Members

Kitt Peak National Observatory

KPNO, part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, supports the most diverse collection of astronomical observatories on Earth for nighttime optical and infrared astronomy and daytime study of the Sun.

Planetary Science Institute 

The Planetary Science Institute is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to Solar System exploration. It is headquartered in Tucson, Ariz., where it was founded in 1972. Today, PSI is the largest non-governmental employer of planetary scientists in the world.

Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory is an independent, non-profit research institution founded in 1894 by Boston mathematician Percival Lowell in Flagstaff, Ariz.  The mission of Lowell Observatory is to pursue the study of astronomy, especially the study of our solar system and its evolution; to conduct pure research in astronomical phenomena; and to maintain quality public education and outreach programs to bring the results of astronomical research to the general public.  Lowell’s flagship instrument is the 4.3-meter Discovery Channel Telescope.

Steward Observatory

Steward Observatory is the research arm for the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona and provides direct access to various world-class facilities for ground-based radio and optical observing.

Mount Graham International Observatory

MGIO is a division of Steward Observatory.  Scientific researchers from around the world make use of MGIO facilities located in the Pinaleño Mountains in southeast Arizona.  Research telescopes at MGIO include the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope and the Large Binocular Telescope.

Lunar & Planetary Laboratory

The Department of Planetary Sciences/Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is an academic institution that pursues scholarly research and education across the broad discipline of planetary and solar systems science through use of theoretical studies and data analysis, laboratory and field investigations, numerical modeling, telescopic observations, remote sensing, spacecraft instrumentation, and space mission development and operations.

Catalina Sky Survey

The Catalina Sky Survey, based at the University of Arizona, is an astronomical survey focused on the discovery and study of Near Earth Asteroids and Comets.

Vatican Observatory

The Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world. The modern version of the Observatory was established by Pope Leo XIII in 1891.  The Vatican Observatory Research Group, hosted by Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, operates the 1.8m Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, located at the Mount Graham International Observatory in southeastern Arizona.

MMT Observatory

The 6.5-meter (21-foot) diameter MMT telescope is operated by the MMT Observatory, a joint venture of the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Arizona. The MMT is located on the summit of Mt. Hopkins south of Tucson, Ariz.  The telescope optics can be arranged in several different ways making it an extremely versatile instrument for a variety of research tasks.

Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory

The major instrument on Mt. Hopkins site is the MMT Observatory’s 6.5-m-diameter optical telescope. The current suite of FLWO telescopes includes a 1.2-m-diameter imaging optical telescope; the 1.5-m Tillinghast optical spectroscopic telescope; the HAT (Hungarian-made Automated Telescope) array of five optical telescopes; the MINERVA array of four 70-cm optical telescopes; the MEarth array of eight 40-cm optical telescopes; and the VERITAS array of four 12-m telescopes for gamma-ray astronomy.

U.S. Naval Observatory, Flagstaff

Established in 1955 a few miles west of Flagstaff, Ariz., the Flagstaff station is the U.S. Naval Observatory’s dark-sky site for optical and near-infrared astronomy. There are presently two USNO sites in the Flagstaff area: this station (NOFS) and the Navy Precision Optical Interferometer, located some 15 miles south of the city.